You know you are in trouble when the House of Lords is more protective of civil rights than the US court system: Law lords back terror detainees
Detaining foreigners without trial under emergency anti-terror legislation breaks European human rights powers, law lords ruled today.
The decision from the law lords, Britain's highest court, throws the government's security policies into chaos.
A specially-convened committee of nine law lords upheld an appeal by nine foreigners who have been detained without charge or trial, most of them in Belmarsh prison, south-east London, for around three years.
Experts said today's decision would probably force the government to repeal the section of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 which has permitted the indefinite detention of foreigners.
The law lords, making the ruling in the chamber of the House of Lords, described the legislation as “draconian” and “anathema” to the rule of law.
OK, OK, my slur on our Supreme Court is ever so slightly unfair, as the US case with the most closely related fact pattern, the Padilla case, was turned down on procedural grounds. (Both cases involve domestic detention of a suspect arrested domestically; the cases differ slightly, however, in that Padilla was a US citizen while the persons in the UK case are foreign nationals, albeit presumably legally admitted to the UK.) Read between the lines of Padilla and the other detention cases and you could get to a point where we end up a bit like the UK….but my point is that this requires some squinting and meanwhile Padilla is still in jail without charges or prospect of trial or indeed any idea of when he might get out.
Note also that in the US the Bush administration has implemented indefinite no-trial detention without a shred of statutory justification. Conversely, in the UK the detentions were not by executive fiat, but pursuant to an act of Parliament. Nevertheless, the Law Lords — who once proclaimed Parliamentary supremacy, but now have new powers under the European Convention and the UK's Human Rights Act, —have struck down indefinite detention in no uncertain terms, and by an 8-1 vote, as barbaric and uncivilized.
History will be cruel to this administration, which is indeed barbaric and uncivilized. Squandering the US's moral capital while looting the Treasury for the rich and debasing our currency is an historic achievement, but not one that one wishes to live through; it seems likely that the aftermath will be substantially worse.